The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has endorsed the Unite Against Corruption coalition’s marches on September 30 in Cape Town and Pretoria‚ and has questioned government’s seriousness to curb corruption.

“We believe that the government is not doing enough to demonstrate that it is serious in its efforts to prevent and combat corruption.

“Political rhetoric is often not accompanied by decisive action‚” said Bishop Abel Gabuza‚ chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission.

Justice and Peace was particularly concerned about the lack of decisive action in implementing the decision of the Constitutional Court calling for effective measures to enhance the independence of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (the Hawks).

In 2012 the Constitutional Court found that the Hawks were not adequately independent from political interference and ordered rectifying legislation.

“Government has dragged its feet when it comes to the restructuring of the Hawks to protect it from undue political interference as directed by the Constitutional Court‚” said Gabuza.

“We have always maintained that our country will only succeed in combating corruption when anti-corruption institutions are adequately protected from executive and political interference; when competent people are appointed to head these institutions; and when the high-level politicians and those politically connected are held to account for corruption.”

In May this year Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko appointed a task team to oversee the process of strengthening the independence of the Hawks. The task team has been given April 2016 as a target for completion of institutional reform of the Hawks.

The minister has promised that the reform shall include establishment of the Hawks as an independent budget programme to ensure that there are no malicious budget cuts when the institution is investigating powerful political officials.

Justice and Peace believes that the mandate of the task team should also include advising the police minister on the institutional location of the Hawks that is best suited for its independence and effectiveness as an anti-corruption institution.

Questions have been raised about its location in the South African Police Service (SAPS)‚ which allows the national commissioner considerable influence over members.

“We need to revive the national conversation around the best institutional location of the Hawks. We also call for greater involvement of Parliament in the appointment of the head of the Hawks. Concentration of the appointment powers in the police minister‚ without some form of parliamentary oversight‚ does not sit well with the independence of the Hawks‚” said Gabuza.